Recipe: Bourbon Caramel Marshmallows

One day I was thinking I should incorporate more bourbon in my life.  Specifically with sugar.  Because, why not?  I’m sure all of you have thought about this over your morning coffee as your children go rampaging around the house with weeks to go before they are off to school again.

And so I thought, as one does, about marshmallows.  These lovely handmade, gourmet marshmallows seem to be everywhere lately.  Cinnamon-vanilla, strawberry-balsamic, chocolate-chili.  And I’ve loved making marshmallows ever since I saw Ina Garten make toasted coconut marshmallows in her “fabulous” way.  I made peppermint marshmallows for Christmas that year and I’ve been making them ever since.

So why not add some bourbon?  And caramel?  Marshmallows are basically melted sugar and gelatin. Caramel is just browned sugar. So I’d only have to take the sugar a little beyond melted and into browned.  How easy is that?

The following recipe is a basic marshmallow recipe with some little additions and one significant change (to give the caramel flavor).

Bourbon Caramel Marshmallows

  • 1 ounce gelatin
  • 2/3 cup + 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt (optional, will give you a salted caramel flavor)
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c bourbon (if you’re not a big fan of bourbon you can use 1/4c of bourbon and 1/4 water instead)
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Brush the bottom and sides of a 9×13 glass baking pan with Crisco. Using a small, fine-mesh sieve, dust the pan generously with confectioners’ sugar, knocking out any excess.

Put 2/3 cup water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin into the bowl and let it soften while you make the sugar syrup.

In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, combine the granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water and place over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring and bring the syrup to a boil. Boil until the syrup begins to turn a light gold color – this is the beginning of caramelizing!  Continue cooking, swirling the pan gently once or twice, until the syrup is a deep golden caramel color.  (For a look at sugar starting to turn into caramel check out my post “Cake!”  It shows you how to make a salted caramel butter cream frosting.)

Remove the pan from the heat, and standing back, carefully add the 1/2 cup of bourbon—be careful!! It will splatter and steam (which also helps the alcohol of the bourbon evaporate off). Whisk the caramel until smooth, then whisk in the corn syrup and salt. Return the pan to moderate heat and bring the sugar syrup to a boil. Put a candy thermometer into the boiling sugar syrup and continue boiling (the mixture may foam up, so turn the heat down slightly if necessary), without stirring, until the thermometer registers 240°F (which the pros call the “soft-ball stage“). Remove the pan from the heat and let stand briefly until the bubbles settle down.

With the mixer on low speed, pour the hot syrup into the softened gelatin in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Gradually increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the marshmallow is very thick and forms a thick ribbon when the whisk is lifted, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.

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Scrape the marshmallow into your pan and use wet fingertips to spread it evenly and smooth the top. To have it cure, leave it on the counter uncovered overnight. (I have had this cure in as little as 6 hours, but leaving it overnight gives you the best results.)

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Dust a cutting board with confectioners’ sugar. Invert the pan onto the cutting board and help the marshmallows out. Dust the top with confectioners’ sugar. Dip a long, sharp knife in the confectioners’ sugar and cut your marshmallows into squares. Dust the marshmallows liberally in confectioners’ sugar to help keep them from sticking together.

And Voila!! You have some of your very own handmade, gourmet marshmallows to eat and gift and brag about!  You can store them uncovered for another day to help the cut edges cure, but then get those puppies into an air-tight container and keep them at room temperature.  These will keep for about a week.

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Like all homemade marshmallows these are light and fluffy.  And these marshmallows have that wonderful buttery-ness of a caramel and, because I used only a 1/4 cup of bourbon, just a slight hint of bourbon at the end.


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